Introverts and Power – Business Daily


Introverts and power

Sheila Kimani, CEO of StanChart Venture Solv Kenya. PICTURES | BOWL

Many successful banking career stories seem to start with someone talking about starting at the very bottom of the banking chain; as a clerk or graduate trainee. Sheila Kimani’s is no different. A USIU graduate program has caught the banking bug.

Then came a graduate clerk who saw her work in every role imaginable at Standard Chartered Bank #symbol:SCBK .

Basically, honing your skills there before going to work in other banks – GTBank as a group leader of transactional services; Nimble Group as Country Head – before returning in 2021 to be CEO of StanChart Venture Solv Kenya, which helps micro, small and medium enterprises grow their businesses by connecting verified buyers and sellers to facilitate the access to finance.

“We’re here to rewire the DNA of the bank,” she told JACKSON BIKO at a recent luncheon. Solv Kenya is opening the platform next quarter.


Tell me about the tattoo on your upper chest.

He is over 10 years old. I don’t remember what year I got it, but I was young. It’s a dolphin tattoo. I think they are nice creatures. Soft. Magnet. We {me and the dolphin} don’t like chaos. I like to help, they guide ships. There is a bit of leadership but very subtle.

So we’re not loud, we’re not everywhere, and we’re not trying to commandeer our presence. But in a very subtle way, we have our presence. So I think that’s why I could identify with a dolphin. They have a gentle rhythm.

Did you have to be gentle to get people to get to where you are in the corporate world?

It’s my personality. I’m a Scorpio, so we’re very careful about who we let into our space. Going back to what I was saying about being loud, I don’t like to be loud about how I do my thing. Did it help in my leadership?

I think so, but also silence is misinterpreted because people then think you’re a snob and not interactive. I’m also a bit introverted, I think. So I prefer one-on-one engagement. I’m not in crowds.

I like explaining things to people, I believe people support you when they understand where you are coming from. You won’t always agree, but I always like to give people a fair hearing. I’d like to explain why we’re moving on to this rather than banging my chest and trying to figure it out.

What do you want now in this time of life?

Where I am right now, peace is so important. Peace is everything. Because once you have peace, you can achieve anything you want in any space you want to enter.

What is peace? Describe what it looks like.

What kind of question is this? (Laughter) Peace is healthy, my family is healthy. It’s that space where even when things aren’t going my way or I feel out of control, I’m still calm and I know we can get this thing back on track.

And this in all areas of life. Peace is usually the feeling that I can overcome and I have the clarity of mind that whatever I do I am able to tackle it.

How do you pursue peace now?

Meditation. I also like to exercise. I run. I do boxing. And of course, being with my children is peaceful.

What fears are you currently struggling with?

Like most women, impostor syndrome. Sometimes you wonder if you know. I have those few moments when I feel like maybe I’m not. I’m also afraid of not living long enough to see my children mature and have their own life.

I feel very lucky and blessed that my mother and father are still alive and I know what it means to have parents at this age. The other fear is that I don’t want to be broke when I get old. [Laughter] I don’t want to depend on my children.

At the beginning you mentioned that you are not a very loud person, when has your life been the loudest…figuratively speaking?

I can’t go into it because it’s personal and it’s difficult to share certain details. But this event made me stronger. It made me realize that I could do things on my own. You never know your strength until you have gone through some life challenges.

You mentioned your love for travel, which city do you think you like?

I am Diani. It’s a good place to retire. Retirement for me is when you pursue your hobby. It’s not money anymore. You do things you love to stay alive. I don’t think I can retire and sit at home.

I don’t see that for me. I would wake up, exercise, then make my turmeric ginger tea. I would enjoy it in the morning, then sit by my balcony and watch the ocean. I will probably read a book. I’m starting to enjoy a lot of podcasts, so I’d probably play a podcast while I do my business in my cabana on the beach.

I will have already checked on my children that they are well wherever they are in the world. I don’t know if it’s realistic to have a wooden beach house. I love the feel of wood.

What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?

(Pause) It’s the same thing I always tell my teenagers. Do what you were hired to do, if you need to go beyond that, do it because there is a God who watches and rewards.

So put a lot of patience into what you are doing. It’s okay to look at people who have accomplished a lot more than you have, but remember they’ve had a head start in life, maybe their age.

Be patient and diligent. Do what you have to do, even if you don’t get your reward in this institution or whatever space you are in, your reward is sure to come. Work as if you were working for God, not for man.